Archive Monthly Archives: January 2011

The Key to Closing Sales: Listen!

Here is a very good article by Meridith Powell. There is no doubt that listening skills feature as number one. If you listen correctly and can react correctly you should get the sale.

Especially in this economy, so many of my clients and people I meet at speaking engagements are asking “how do I close more sales?” They share the struggles they are having getting customers to commit, and I agree it is more challenging in this day and age then it has probably been in the last ten years.

It is more challenging now, because consumers are more cautious, they have more options and they want value for the money they are spending and time they are investing. It is more challenging now, because we are truly selling. For the last ten years or so it has truly been a sellers market. Meaning, that cash and credit were plenty, people wanted to buy, and no one seem to be too worried about the need to save or over abundance. With the crash of the housing market, failure of the banks, and rise in unemployment all that has changed.

Does that mean you can’t close sales right now, or that you can’t grow a business? Absolutely not! In fact, if you truly understand relationships and know how to sell (build relationships, listen to consumers, and add value and build trust) it is one of the best times!

However, you are right, it is more challenging then ever to close the deal and get consumers to commit. As you have heard me say before, there is no magic bullet, no perfect saying that gets consumers to all of a sudden say YES. The close comes simply by doing your job on the front end. Preparing for the call, asking great questions, really listening to the consumer, and following up.  If the consumer will not close the deal, then most likely there is a break down in your system (that is why we track and measure, so we can learn where the deal is getting stuck or why it will not close.)

There is a great book called “Get Clients Now” in which author CJ Hayden lays out some reasons you may struggle to get the consumer to close.
1. You are not using the right words – consumers don’t understand how you can help them.
2. Your phone skills are not up to speed – you are nervous or unprepared when you get on the phone, and aren’t able to engage people in the conversation.
3. The prospects you are talking to are not qualified – they don’t have a need, can’t pay or are not at a point where what you offer is their top priority.
4. You aren’t well-known enough – have not been recommended – prospects have a lot of choices, your lack of image and recommendations will hinder your ability to close the deal
5. Your competition seems to have the market locked up – your prospects are being well-served by others
6. You are offering what you think your prospects need instead of what they think they need – you are solving the wrong problem
7. Your packaging doesn’t make sense or work for your prospect – you may be charging by the hour and they want to pay a flat fee, or your prospects wants to start with one or two of your services and you are offering only a full package.
8. You are offering so many products or services your customer is confused trying to figure how what exactly you do or how you can help.

I think an inability to close sales always comes down to one thing, your ability to listen. If you want to close sales, you need to figure out why (listen) your prospect isn’t buying, and then adjust your approach based on that reason.

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Just Say “no” to the Recession: a Refresher Course for Retailers Who Want to Boom Rather Than Bomb This Holiday Season

These are the times that try retailers’ souls. Unemployment is at a 14-year high, consumer confidence is at an all-time low, and the stock market has yet to mellow out. If you own a retail store, you’re not sure what sales numbers to expect this holiday season. Should the stronger-than-expected Black Friday sales give you hope that holiday goodwill could trump the much-vaunted bad economy and surprise savvy retailers with a healthy (if not spectacular) shopping season? Or will shoppers stay away from stores now that the Black Friday deals have come and gone?

Why not ignore all of this economic bad news, let your more positive way of thinking win out, and just say “no” to the recession?

I’ve been noticing lately that the restaurants I go to are still full of patrons. And when the ski shop in my town had its preseason sale, its parking lot was full. And a good friend of mine, a real estate broker, just told me she had one of her best months in three years. My point? People are still buying stuff, big and small. And it’s not like Christmas was cancelled this year, so people will keep on buying. It’s your job to make sure they are buying stuff from you.

In other words, you can no longer use the bad economy as an excuse for not doing well. In fact, overall retail sales are much better than recorded because of two simple reasons:

  • Gift cards have become a best-selling gift. However, they are not counted as retail sales until they are redeemed. So, many of these sales will not show up on the books until after the holidays, and as we know, not everyone redeems all of their gift cards.



  • The biggest growth in retailing has been from the Internet. Those numbers are never included when retailers report same store sales.




Retailers who have a successful holiday season will be the ones who simply tune out the bad news and do everything they can to keep their doors open.

Poor management puts stores out of business, not economic climates. Recessions reward the flexible and nimble. There is business out there to be had, and I believe sharp retailers can achieve great sales numbers now despite the economy. They need to adopt the attitude displayed by a store owner who recently posted in response to my weekly Q&A session, Retailer’s Advantage. He said, “We choose NOT to participate in the recession.” The more store owners who mimic his resolve the better.

To make the most of the slow economy, retail store owners should get back to the basics. Here are a few suggestions:

Bring them in with hot items. To get customers into your store this holiday season and after, you must offer them merchandise they simply can’t turn down. Stock your shelves with items that have the Wow Factor and thus send customers into an “I have to have that” or an “I must give that as a gift this year” buying frenzy. Once you’ve identified the “hot” items for the season, determine which ones are the best fit for your store. Then research which other stores in your area sell those products. If you can become the sole seller of a certain “hot” item in your area, you will be in great shape. Providing great merchandise that’s heavy on the “hot” items for a given period will be your trump card for surviving any recession. Don’t you forget it!

Make your store the place to get the best stuff. Too many retailers put price first and item second. Reverse it—always put the item first and the price second. But do remember, this doesn’t mean that you can stick your head in the sand about price. I was at the airport in Louisville recently, and as I was walking past the PGA store, I noticed they had a table out in front with some terrific buys. I was shocked when I saw a sweater I liked for only $9.99. I quickly tried it on and decided at that price I had to buy it. As I was checking out, a store employee suggested another sweater that was $39.99. And since I already had my wallet out I figured I might as well buy it too.

My point is that pretty much everyone has a hard time resisting a good sale. So, get in touch with your vendors and see what buys they’re offering for cheap these days. And don’t be afraid to do some negotiating if necessary. Many of your vendors will be willing to sell cheap because of the slow economy. By including items in your inventory that you’ve purchased from your vendors on the cheap, you’ll be able to tempt your customers to part with their cash.

Give them something to talk about. Strong businesses are built on word-of-mouth advertising. The kicker is that in order for word-of-mouth advertising to work, you have to get people talking about your store. A great way to do that is through creative promotions, eye-catching window displays, in-store contests, and of course, all that great merchandise. All of these things are what make you different from the competition and what make your store stand out in the eyes of your customers.

The holidays are a great opportunity to use promotional activities to excite your customers and generate enthusiastic word of mouth. For example, offer a discount on a certain weekend to anyone brave enough to come to your store dressed as a holiday-related personality or character. Or partner with a nearby bakery and offer delicious holiday treats for shoppers along with a coupon that gives a discount at the bakery to every customer who buys in your store that day.

Stay in front of your customers. If you don’t already ask your customers for contact information when they buy from you, now is the time to start. Simply following up with past customers to ask how they like an item they recently purchased, to inform them about an upcoming sale, or to offer them special discounts is a great way to capture the fruit closest to the ground during a tough economy. You’ll tempt them into coming in again and making a purchase without giving away the store.

The key to having your existing customers come back to your store lies in you and your salespeople mastering the Art of the Friendly Reminder. I have seen stores have huge increases just by requiring their employees to make follow-up phone calls to customers. For example, if a customer recently purchased new cookware from your store, have a sales associate follow up with her to see how she is enjoying it and let her know that you just received a great shipment of cooking utensils or cookbooks.

Introduce the discount-later sales technique. There is a relatively new promotional idea that is being adopted by many retailers with a great deal of success. Here’s how it works: A customer makes a purchase for a certain amount, let’s say it’s $105. Because she’s reached the sales mark of $100 or more, you, the store, give her a coupon for 15 or 20 percent off of her next purchase. The kicker is the coupon cannot be used the day of the initial sale and is valid for only the next six days.

These kinds of deals are proving to be very effective. They give customers a compelling reason to come back to you and come back soon, while that sweater or purse or espresso machine she thought about but didn’t buy is still fresh on her mind. In fact, studies show that the return rate on these discounts is over 70 percent. That is a pretty significant success rate that will help you bring in a bunch of customers who may not have come back at all.

Sell every person who walks through the door. Remember, it is your job to maximize every customer who walks through your doors. You might be rolling your eyes at the impossibility of that proposal, but these tough times require a change in attitude. And yes, you can do this without being too aggressive or pushy.

Keep in mind that if someone enters your store, the potential exists for him to buy simply because he is in your store. Take the time to train your sales associates on how to engage your shoppers without alienating them. Remind them that just selling one item to one customer is not good enough and that the store benefits the most when a customer buys multiple items. So, make sure the phrase “May I also show you our fill-in-the-blank?” becomes second nature to them.

I believe we are about to observe an unprecedented period of growth. But in order to take part in that growth, you have to be around to see it, and that means taking the right steps now. Block out the naysayers who say you can’t be successful in this economic climate and ignore your own negative thoughts. If you take on a positive attitude and stay focused on doing everything you can to please and impress your customers, you will weather the economic storm.

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About the Author:

Rick Segel, CSP, a seasoned retailer of 25 years, owned one of New England’s most successful independent women’s specialty stores. He is the marketing expert for, a contributing writer for numerous national publications, and a founding member of the Retail Advisory Council for Johnson & Wales University. Rick is the director of retail training for the Retailers Association of Massachusetts. He is the creator of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts Awards of Excellence Program (RAMAEs) that has recognized over 50 of the most innovative retailers in the state.

Rick is currently serving on the Boards of Directors for five corporations and associations. After authoring and developing The Retail Technology Assessment Survey and The Retail Store Assessment Survey, online assessment applications designed for small- to medium-sized retailers, he created The Retailer’s Advantage, a membership website devoted to helping independent retailers improve their businesses.

CSP (Certified Speaking Professional) designation from the National Speakers Association, an elite rank held by only 7 percent of professional speakers. Rick is a past president of the New England Speakers Association, and he has been a featured speaker in 49 states, and on four continents, delivering over 1,900 presentations.

Rick has authored nine books, two training videos, and a six-hour audio program. Retail Business Kit For Dummies, published by Wiley, Inc., became the #1 selling retail how-to book in the United States in January 2002 and is now in its 2nd edition. Laugh & Get Rich: How to Profit from Humor in Any Business, published by Specific House, has been critically acclaimed as a must-read for its insightful outlook at our entertainment-based society and has been translated into Japanese, Chinese, and Korean. The Essential Online Solution: The Five Step Formula for Small Business Success, published by Wiley, Inc., is a primer for business owners on creating e-commerce success. He is also the author of Rick Segel’s Retail Inventory Control Solution: Open to Thrive and The 5,000 BEST Sale & Promotional Names & Ideas Ever Compiled and co-author of Retailing in the 21st Century. Most recently, he authored WOW Them Into Your Store: The Art and Science of Creating Powerful Promotions and Sensational Sales and Becoming the Vendor of Choice: The Secrets to Powerful Retail Relationships, both published by Specific House.

Rick also has tons of experience with the media and has appeared on TV, radio, and in many print articles. His down-to-earth, street-smart approach to business makes him a crowd pleaser wherever he goes.

About the Book:

Retail Business Kit For Dummies®, 2nd Edition (Wiley, September 2008, ISBN: 978-0-470-29330-0, $34.99) is available at bookstores nationwide and from all major online booksellers.

For more information, please visit

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How to Track Down Potential Big Sales

Start action:

The first step in achieving big sales is to make a list of companies who are really good and fit your company, products and services. The list will include all demographics and psychographics pertinent details of the companies, such as private or public, annual turnover, profit/loss, employee strength, nature of products or services, names and biodata of executives, reputation, if they invest in their people, etc. A list of about 100 companies will be adequate to start with.

Using this basic list, dig deeper and get more information about each of the companies by going through their balance sheets, industrial reports, news from print and digital media, and personal discussions with friends and employees and so on. Use this information to make a smaller list of about 25 big companies, depending upon the size and capacity of your own company.

Using this list as a starting point, scout around for selling opportunities for your products and services in any of these companies. When opportunities present themselves, start taking appropriate action by replying to inquiries, RFP’s, etc. and then follow it up.

New buying strategies:

Most big companies have changed their buying strategies. No longer is buying made by one-to-one contacts between the individual buyer and seller. Instead, big companies now have a team of executives to consult and decide on matters like change of suppliers or purchase of a new product or service or other similar matters. The buying team will have at least one high level executive and stakeholders from various concerned departments like finance, labor, R&D, IT, HRD, and so on. While typically executives have the power to say “yes,” they prefer to have all the stakeholders bless the decision. The object of this exercise is not only to make the correct decision but also to eliminate risks to the business.

The small-mid size company, which is the seller in this case, should also have its own team of executives and specialists, who will be able to interact with their respective counterparts and help to carry the discussions forward. This process offers many advantages to both the buyer and the seller in finalizing big deals satisfactorily.

In the matter of big sales, larger companies generally prefer to deal with other large companies and are wary of transacting business with small companies for various reasons. Big companies speak the same language, have similar systems and processes, and respect each other’s ability to deliver. In comparison, small-mid size companies have the advantages of more flexibility, the ability to innovate, make quick decisions, and to offer more concessions.

As a small-mid size company, you should be able to allay the fears of the big companies and highlight the various advantages mentioned above to ensure that the big sales are decided in your favor.

The benefits of making big sales:

It costs nearly as much to land a small deal as to land a big deal. By landing more and more big sales, small companies stand to gain multiple benefits such as increased market share, higher revenue and profits, as well as enhanced reputation among their clients and customers. With this approach many CEO’s have grown their companies at double the industry average in a shorter period of time.

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